CHAPTER 9Old Buts and New Buts

One of the things that divides us and makes it hard to achieve Momentum Thinking together is an inability to hear each other across generational divides.

Take startup accelerators like Y Combinator, for example. Today, there are roughly 7,000 accelerators worldwide. They're run by investors, governments, and large corporations. Most emphasize their ability to make connections to talent, investors, services, and experienced mentors.

Connecting new startup founders with experienced executives, engineers, and scientists often means navigating the “we-tried-it-before” problem. We'll call it the old but problem.

Here's an example of how the old but problem usually plays out: A young and ambitious team says, “We're going to disrupt the hotel industry.” Their slightly-long-in-the-tooth advisors say, “That's adorable, but we tried that in the 80s, the 90s, and 20 times since 2000, and it hasn't ever worked.” Then the startup team, writing off the advisors as wrinkly, old 1But guys, gives it a shot anyway.

Airbnb and Paul Graham's Old But Breakthrough

Airbnb started life in 2007 but stumbled through various false starts until entering Silicon Valley startup accelerator Y Combinator in 2009. There they met experienced startup mentor Paul Graham, who helped spot a pattern in their rental listings. The listings that were getting booked had great photos, and the ones that weren't getting booked had photos that sucked. This made sense, but how could they ...

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